Businesses in Roseburn have been left struggling for their survival after supposedly routine roadworks have dragged on for around three months.
Some companies that have been on the high street for almost half a century have expressed their disbelief at the lack of support and collaboration shown by Edinburgh City Council.
The works on the southside of Roseburn Terrace were started in February as part of the City Center WestEast Link project.
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But after several hiccups – including the discovery of asbestos, damage to cellar ceilings and a corroded gas main – the works look as though they will not be completed until June 6 2022.
Although business owners are in a state of panic as the council have informed them that they will continue to work throughout the Summer on West Coates, Roseburn Street, Russell Road, Murrayfield Gardens, Murrayfield Avenue and Roseburn Gardens.
As well as this, the WestEast Link works will resume on Roseburn Terrace in September, and businesses fear that they may run beyond their deadline and impact their ability to operate over Christmas.
George Randall, who runs Art Et Facts, and has operated the business for 33 years, says that he is now 70 per cent down on Covid business and even further down on 2019 turnover.
On the roadworks, he said: “I’ve been here for 33 years and of course business can go up and down but I have never seen anything like this.
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“We have been through various recessions and have made it through but this is worrying.
“We are down around 70 per cent on what we were taking in during Covid and even more so than what we were turning around pre-pandemic.
“I’m lucky as my wife works so we will probably survive but there are other businesses on the street that are not so lucky. Some are struggling to pay their mortgages, we have one guy having to close early to work for Asda to make ends meet and Bali Tanz who opened nine months ago has had enough and is looking to relocate.
“We feel as though we are almost being punished for opposing these plans for years. They are not listening to our concerns and rarely if ever they do action any of our suggestions.
“Take the loading pays and parking spaces for instance. They obstruct them with cones and had put double yellow lines in. We had to ask them to sort that out and it took weeks before they reduced it to a single yellow.
“But we only get one spot really. I have no idea why we cannot have more spaces when you look outside the store.
“The workers from Balfour Beattie are normally the ones taking up the spaces as well so what good does it do for us?
“The closing of Roseburn Street has hammered us again. I had one customer sat in traffic for 48 minutes and he just said ‘listen, I’ll have to try again George.’
“Even if he made it here, where would he park?
“They are talking about coming back in September after pausing for Summer but they would be as well carrying on. They have just hammered us right after Covid.
“I worry that the work in September will run into December and disrupt Christmas which is our busiest period.
“These works were meant to be completed in a matter of weeks but it will run on for three months just about.
“The transport convention has said that she does not want to give us compensation as it would set a precedent but the situation is unprecedented. We will be shut down for the best part of a year and I don’t understand why we cannot be compensated like businesses at Haymarket or down Leith Walk.
“We will be trying again with new council members elected.”
George was joined in his condemnation by Richard from Thallon Soulis, a business that has been on the street for 47 years.
Richard has said he has been there for almost 40 years himself and that he has little to no confidence in the council who are “wrecking the city with their various schemes.”
On the road works, he said: “Thallon is one of the longest serving in the area.
“Our business is ok but we are having problems with disabled clients, mainly those that can’t walk or are wheelchair users.
“We had to fight for one drop off and pick up but if workmen are parked up then people cant get access and this is happening all the time.
“It is like they have allowed us to get back on our feet after Covid before hitting us again.
“They will be coming back in September and are going to keep the south side clear but I have little confidence it will run smoothly.
“Residents are impacted as well as they cannot access their homes with the junction at Roseburn Street being closed.
“There is a fear that we are putting people off visiting. This was normally a busy thoroughfare but there is no passing business now.
“No one can stop at Delta next door to pick up their takeaways and all of the local businesses have been hit.
“We are not being listened to by local authorities as they have just railroaded ahead. Feels as though there is a lack of common sense.
“Right now we cannot get deliveries on the street and have to drop round the corner. We are having to help each other get our deliveries down the street on trolleys.
“The council are a hopeless bunch. Just look at the city, they have ruined it with Spaces for People with horrible plastic poles and look at the cycle track in Leith where they have street lamps in the middle of them.
“There is no sense to it at all.”
Ali Tek, who runs Vigo Delicatessen with his family, said that they have seen a drop off of around 30-40 per cent in their turnover.
He said: “We have been here for over four years.
“Business was ticking away before the roadworks and was better during and after Covid.
“But roadworks have made it even worse as passers by can’t stop and that is impacting footfall.
“I see a 35-40 per cent loss of business. Some people are suffering more than us due to the products we sell but I’ve seen a drop in people coming to us for lunch.
“Most of them are running from A to B and want to only wait five to 10 minutes on their break from work. They’re not going around the streets looking to park so we are losing trade, which has been going on for over two months and will continue for a while longer.
“Locals are supporting us but I am worried that once the roadworks are finished the passing trade will have already found a new spot and will they come back?
“At the moment deliveries can’t stop and I can’t go to cash and carry as I can’t park outside.
“They dropped in a letter saying that the summer period will see a partial reopening but then they will be back in September to finish the work on our side.
“If it is impacting us on the south side, imagine how it will impact us on the side we are situated.
“I’d have liked for them to have given us a year or so to get back into the swing of things after Covid but they aren’t allowing us time to stabilize.
“The council are also juggling so many schemes and works that I feel for how they are coping too.
“We were denied compensation but what they could offer would be a drop in the ocean compared to what we have already lost.
“We are trying to look positively into the future and hope the cyclists will come in once the work is completed.”
Flowers by Devall, who are a relatively new addition on the north side of Roseburn Terrace, has said that they do not know how badly they have been impacted as all they have known is Covid and roadworks.
Danny Devall, who owns the business said that selling flowers is a versatile occupation and therefore the business has not been hit as bad as some of his neighbours.
On the roadworks, he said: “Roadworks haven’t helped the business but I’m lucky as I can still provide a service without people coming into the shop.
“Folk can contact me on social media and have flowers delivered. I mean it has not helped with people being too scared to come onto the street as the barriers are intimidating even though they are not as bad now.
“But when it comes over to our side in September I don’t know what it will be like.
“I have got to park at Dine and get a trolley which makes it harder to bring stuff in. I could unload my van outside the shop and bring it in but I can’t do that now or in September.
“I’m trying to stay as positive as possible and hope the cyclists will come and support businesses here afterwards but whether they do or not is still to be determined.
“I’m still a new business and only opened last year, so I don’t really have a normal to compare it to having Mothers Day, Easter and Valentines in the recent past too.
“I kind of wish they would carry on over the Summer, so we can move and get back to it on the street as soon as possible.
“I’m not sure what the rationale is for stopping and starting, they will say it is to ensure a decent Summer’s trade but I don’t get it. Will go on Sept til December.
“I understand why they can’t give us compensation as it may set a precedent and the route goes through George Street which has big stores that take in what I earn in a year in a month. So how much compensation could they pay out?
“The council is already running at a deficit but it doesn’t matter if you agree with the party that’s in power, you worry they will go bankrupt and be unable to run vital services.
“But I guess I knew before it started we wouldn’t get any compensation so didn’t get my hopes up.
“The council is not listening to residents or businesses.
“In my opinion it is driven by political legacy, so they can say ‘look at what we left behind.’
“This idea of Edinburgh being a European city of the future is mad. The streets are too narrow.
“Holland is built for it but Edinburgh is not. It is a completely different place.”
A Council spokesperson said: “This project has been years in the making – we’ve made every effort to take the views of residents and businesses into account as it’s progressed and have worked hard to address any issues. Temporary parking bays were provided from the outset, and we’ve since responded to businesses’ concerns by modifying parking restrictions to make spaces more accessible. The contractor is making good progress on permanent bays which will soon be open.
“Unfortunately, the unforeseen discovery of asbestos cement has resulted in a delay to the project, while sub-contractors were procured to carry out the necessary work to a high standard, ensuring the safety of all those involved. We’ve since reprogrammed works in this section of the project to give businesses a break during the busy summer period, and hope to have completed construction in the area in time for the Christmas shopping season.
“There is no doubt that an important scheme of this scale is likely to have an impact on both traders and residents and we’re actively promoting all that’s on offer in the area. Our multi-media open for business campaign is designed to attract people to Roseburn, and we’ve been sharing all the active travel links available along the route too. Once complete, this project will transform the area, providing a much improved environment for spending time, as well as better walking and cycling connections to and from the city.”
It is understood that the decision to pause during summer was to ensure that the street is clear of barriers as they are not able to start on the north and finish before the August embargo.
It is claimed that it was agreed this was the best way to ensure the traders could maximize the busy summer months where there is more footfall plus an anticipated extra busy festival.